As creative director of Calvin Klein women’s, Francisco Costa spends most of his time toiling away in his Manhattan design studio. But whenever he has a moment free from the demands of Seventh Avenue, Costa heads for his Dutch Colonial home in Bellport, N.Y., which he shares with his partner, horse trainer John De Stefano. Just an hour and a half from New York City, the picturesque hamlet boasts quaint houses, charming antique stores and mom-and-pop shops. Plus, the crowds don’t swell in the summer because even second-home owners in the 2,500-resident town come out year-round. Here, Costa shares some of his favorite haunts for eating, shopping and sunbathing.
WHERE TO EAT
I like the Sugar Loaf Café, which is a great place for coffee and breakfast. It was opened recently—just in time for the summer season—by a Brazilian couple, Jackson and Simone Costa (no relation), who were previously based in Sag Harbor. Besides a library in the back with a great selection of books, the café has the most delicious cheese bread, and local contractors and commuters alike stop by in the morning. The Bellport is a must for dinner. It’s owned by another husband-and-wife team—Taylor Alonso, a Cordon Bleu-trained chef, and Patricia Trainor, a former fashion publicist. Their kitchen uses many organic products from local farms. The signature dish is buttermilk fried chicken with a fresh mushroom fricassee and garlic mashed potatoes. They also prepare delicious fresh fish entrées, like seafood croquettes over polenta with garlic aioli. For dessert, there is a fantastic cobbler, usually berry or other fruit, served warm with homemade vanilla whipped cream.
The Bellport is a favorite of stylists, photographers and models, and it’s a great Friday night fall-in place after the drive from the city. Friday nights in the summer are definitely considered to be the “Manhattan” night. I also enjoy their Sunday brunch—they serve the best eggs Benedict around.
WHERE TO SHOP
The Bellport shopping scene is a lot more low key than that of the Hamptons—no Scoops, Calypsos or J. Crews here. But it has a couple of locally owned stores that opened during the winter season and several great shops. The Variety Mart, an old standby on South Country Road, is the best—like an old-fashioned five and dime—and the perfect place to walk through on a weekend afternoon. You can find everything from children’s toys and games to buttons and bows. Pamela Lerner sells upscale midcentury-modern furniture that is very well priced, and currently has a set of Louis XVl-style chairs in mint condition for $3,345. I bought this great 1950s library lamp there. Libaire & Friends—a mainstay in Bellport—is a fine art and interior design firm. Debbie Libaire has exquisite taste and mines estate sales, auctions and other dealers for high-quality pieces like a gorgeous Chinese secretary desk from 1830.
Inside Out specializes in garden appointments and household furnishings. Melodie Primus, the owner, is a landscape architect. I love to garden when I am in Bellport and I spend a lot of time there. She also has French linens and candles, fresh flowers, plants and garden fountains.
Bellport also has many wonderful antique shops. At Treasure Island Antiques, Linda Majowka covers everything from the 18th century to the present. She is well known—she’s been a social fixture in town for over 20 years—and has owned several shops in the area.
Van der Zalm’s Nursery is a Bellport institution. There you will find John Van der Zalm smoking his stogie amidst the live chickens out front. Van der Zalm’s grows everything from seed, including the most wonderful datura in multicolors of white, yellow and purple, and huge, multicolored brugmanzia. It also grows its own herbs, and sells wonderful, scented geraniums. But if you have some time for a little road trip, there is also Cheap Sam‘s nursery in Holtsville, which is great. I just bought a bunch of trees there to have planted in my yard.
WHERE TO STAY
At your best friend’s house. There aren’t really any good hotels in Bellport.
WHAT TO DO/SEE
The Bellport Film Society was founded by Isabella Rossellini and Malcolm Morley with a group from Bellport. It shows films year-round every other week at the Community Center—everything from Airplane! to Best in Show.
If you want some action, go kayaking or canoeing at the Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge on Bellport Bay, located on Montauk Highway.
For golfers and tennis players, there’s the Bellport Country Club, which also has a great grill room.
The town has a wonderful, huge public library that offers video rentals as well as scheduled events and movies. And for those of you who love to watch the sunset, the best spot is at the Bellport Bay Yacht Club at the end of Bellport Lane. It’s a public facility, and it has fantastic music all summer at the marina amphitheater. Local and traveling bands play everything from reggae and ska to Dixieland and ballroom.
Take the ferry to the Bellport Beach on Fire Island. The town owns a ferry that takes passengers to the town-owned beach on the other side of the bay, where there are no houses for miles. There’s a little kiosk—with showers, a screened porch and picnic tables—that serves frozen fruit bars and cheese sandwiches. Walk over the boardwalk to the covered area, where everyone lines up his or her shoes in little rows before heading to the beach, to stow your sandals while scouting out the perfect spot to place your towel.
This article appeared in WWD Scoop, a special publication to WWD available to subscribers.